Dieselpunks

Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

I thought others might have some thoughts on this article. Frankly, I think this bloggers argument is off-track but I was wondering what others thought. It's titled "Stop Punking the Genre" and you can read it here. Though the heart of the article is criticism of steampunk I thought since he's critical of the  - punk sub-genres in general the author, assuming he even knows of dieselpunk, would apply it to us as well.

Here's an excerpt:
My main issue here is two-fold. The first is that with that in mind, it’s hard to apply that sort of label to any sort of science fiction after the term is pushing 30 years old, much as it’s hard to take someone seriously who’s been involved in the punk scene for a comparable amount of time, with several records under their belt to a major record label. The surprise and edge vanishes after a while, and in a way, the
‘Cyberpunk’ term has become a label that’s synonymous with electronics and dystopia. At the same time, the suffix ‘-Punk’ seems to be added onto any number of themes and styles of science fiction literature. Steampunk is a ready example, both visually with film, photography and costuming, but also with such books as Cherie Priest’s
Boneshaker, where there is a blend of dystopic and steam-powered technology. The problem that I see is that the idea behind ‘punk’-style music, video, literature is that it’s something that ultimately rebells against a label, and in science fiction’s field of vision, -punk is the marketing term to rally behind in creating a subgenre, undermining or missing what the word in the  meantime really means.

Tags: criticism, dieselpunk

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I would be quite happy to use a term that doesn´t have the word "punk" in it. I never felt it was appropriate.
I like the Punk aspect as a tie back to social rebellion against conformity and status quo that the lifestyles beyond the fiction genre attempt to maintain. Maybe not to the political anarchism of Steampunk Mag, but as a frank social trend away from the Reality TV Shallow Consumerist Rude Selfishness of todays society I like *Punk as that element that moves it beyond simple anachronistic costuming.
This all hearkens back to the idea of "who owns the genre/subgenre" argument. It's only -punk until enough people like/are aware of it, and everybody else who wasn't dropping acid with the six people who started it in some grungy loft somewhere is a poser and co-opting the movement/mission/culture for crass commercialism. Also, why can't there be more really way out there groundbreaking books.

Short answer: At the point where you start thinking that every newcomer is a poser out for marketing schemes, it's time to either move on to your next big thing or do enough creative stuff to combat your perception of the bandwagoneers--complaining about these damn kids on your front lawn is not going to stop the locomotive that carries them from running down your driveway.

Also, not everybody can be an unique and special snowflake. Publishers exist to make money by selling books a lot of people want to buy. This means the magnum opus of anti-establishment rebellion written in pig latin and iambic pentameter that features an amoeba as a main character probably will sit in a drawer somewhere unless and until it is released on the internet, where it will sit on a file server somewhere. The magnum opus that is just different enough to wow the socks off people may have a chance at catching the attentions of enough people to not be boxed up and remaindered a month after its release, and sink back into obscurity except for the copy the Akron library picked up because it was the home library of the author. But after that magnum opus makes the barest dent in the cacophony of entertainment, you can expect the people who make money off the art to all be out in the same field with their lightning rods of similar works, hoping for lightning to strike twice. And the voltage of consumers will be thick in the air because if they liked one thing new and different, they want more of the same new and different. After they've been glutted, they will seek out something different new and different. But until then, we'll have more of the same, but different.

TL;DR: Good writing and good stories outlive genre labels. And there will always be people who are too cool for school.
The punk part fits in terms of rebelling against conformity, but the people who try to make it their entire life are just stupid. It's an aesthetic. Trying to put a mentality on an aesthetic is silly. I mean, it can be there, and it is, but saying that everyone who dresses like that MUST act like a certain thing is bull. It's exactly like what they're rebelling against, only being Nazis about their subgenre instead of the status quo.

Besides, the irony of punks trying to get people to conform to something and railing against individual freedom to dress a certain way is just priceless.
If someone wants to make it their entire life well...there are worse things folks could devote their lives to. There are better, certainly, but there are much, much worse. And you might want not to assign a specific mentality to an aesthetic, but there are certain ways of thinking that mesh better with certain aesthetics, are there not (think of Shaker and the simple life, or Arts & Crafts/William Morris and a naturalistic bent). A punk aesthetic is gonna lend itself better to a mindset that addresses a disconnect with what's on the outside and what's on the inside (the nature of automata--clockwork inside, human appearance, or a candlestick with a trigger on the outside, inside it's a ghost-hunting ray gun).

I always thought punk wasn't so much rebelling against conformity, but forcing people to look and think past the assumptions made by appearance and groupthink behavior. About surprising the hell out of people when your multi-color-haired biker with nose rings and tattoos knows the Seven Habits of HIghly Effective People or organic chemistry or Goethe and Keynesian economics.

But...people are tribal. In this modern hyperspeed age in which we live, it's not so long between the time something new hits the streets (or rather, erupts from them) and the time it becomes co-opted and glommed on by Madison Ave. as the Next Big Thing. When someone finds a mindset, a genre, or an aesthetic that speaks to them, they group it. It becomes a tribal marker and a way to find a friendly face, and they try to protect that tribal marker--understandably, as abuse of it co-opts it and turns it into something its not, or something meaningless. But nobody owns a genre, or an aesthetic definition, or the gates to the group gestalt.

Damien Hewitt said:
The punk part fits in terms of rebelling against conformity, but the people who try to make it their entire life are just stupid. It's an aesthetic. Trying to put a mentality on an aesthetic is silly. I mean, it can be there, and it is, but saying that everyone who dresses like that MUST act like a certain thing is bull. It's exactly like what they're rebelling against, only being Nazis about their subgenre instead of the status quo.

Besides, the irony of punks trying to get people to conform to something and railing against individual freedom to dress a certain way is just priceless.
I totally agree, particularily about the tribal part. It's become a very prominent part of modern society.

Athenaprime said:
If someone wants to make it their entire life well...there are worse things folks could devote their lives to. There are better, certainly, but there are much, much worse. And you might want not to assign a specific mentality to an aesthetic, but there are certain ways of thinking that mesh better with certain aesthetics, are there not (think of Shaker and the simple life, or Arts & Crafts/William Morris and a naturalistic bent). A punk aesthetic is gonna lend itself better to a mindset that addresses a disconnect with what's on the outside and what's on the inside (the nature of automata--clockwork inside, human appearance, or a candlestick with a trigger on the outside, inside it's a ghost-hunting ray gun).

I always thought punk wasn't so much rebelling against conformity, but forcing people to look and think past the assumptions made by appearance and groupthink behavior. About surprising the hell out of people when your multi-color-haired biker with nose rings and tattoos knows the Seven Habits of HIghly Effective People or organic chemistry or Goethe and Keynesian economics.

But...people are tribal. In this modern hyperspeed age in which we live, it's not so long between the time something new hits the streets (or rather, erupts from them) and the time it becomes co-opted and glommed on by Madison Ave. as the Next Big Thing. When someone finds a mindset, a genre, or an aesthetic that speaks to them, they group it. It becomes a tribal marker and a way to find a friendly face, and they try to protect that tribal marker--understandably, as abuse of it co-opts it and turns it into something its not, or something meaningless. But nobody owns a genre, or an aesthetic definition, or the gates to the group gestalt.

Damien Hewitt said:
The punk part fits in terms of rebelling against conformity, but the people who try to make it their entire life are just stupid. It's an aesthetic. Trying to put a mentality on an aesthetic is silly. I mean, it can be there, and it is, but saying that everyone who dresses like that MUST act like a certain thing is bull. It's exactly like what they're rebelling against, only being Nazis about their subgenre instead of the status quo.

Besides, the irony of punks trying to get people to conform to something and railing against individual freedom to dress a certain way is just priceless.
For me the "punk" is important because it means that it's a re-imagining of the era rather than a re-enactment. So steampunk isn't neo-Victorianism and dieselpunk isn't re-enactment of the diesel era. Each draws on that era and styles for inspiration to create something new.

For me there's something more. Punk is an attitude. So I like a little edge to my dieselpunk.
I think it's unnecessary to read too much into the etymologies of words and names; sometimes they give you a clue as to meaning, sometimes not. There's a thing linguists call "semantic drift", which simply means that core meanings of words change over time. Words can accrete peripheral meanings, and the peripheral meaning can replace the main one. The word "engine" originally meant something like "clever device" (related to the word 'ingenious'); over time it acquired the meaning "trick" or "deception" in one sense, and "mechanism of war" (e.g., a catapult, trebuchet, or balista) in another sense; and the latter meaning evolved over time to refer to different kinds of devices, and eventually settled on one that converts energy into motion.

In the same way, "punk" seems to have as its oldest meaning "low-class prostitute" or "streetwalker". Later on, it lost that meaning and acquired the meaning of "badly behaved youngster" and then "inexperienced criminal", "hooligan".

"Cyberpunk" built on that last meaning -- implying a future characterized by young, computer-savvy criminals -- but ultimately the "punk" part was re-read in various ways, e.g., to characterize new science fiction that was supposed to be rebelliously breaking the (supposedly) tired conventions of contemporary sf in the early 1980s. (Ironically, those conventions had been largely set by New Waves sf writers who were themselves perceived as anti-conventional rebels.) But then "steampunk" used the suffix in what was a self-consciously aware and ironic reversal: breaking with the conventions of the 1980s (including cyberpunk!) by recalling conventions from a much earlier period of sf.

But steampunk itself changed the meaning of "-punk", giving it a host of new associations: anachronistic technological mixtures, alternate timelines, parallel worlds, retro-futurism of various stripes. And while "dieselpunk" picks up "-punk" in that sense, it seems probable that dieselpunk is beginning to acquire additional peripheral meanings, as it incorporates a variety of modern-retro styles of art, music, craftsmanship, etc. that have only limited connection with the sf concepts embedded in steampunk.
Re: the Punk in Dieselpunk--I think it might be said, too, that Dieselpunk has punk roots not from being hooligan-ish, or featuring hooligans as characters but rather, as my Dad pointed out to me in a conversation a few months ago--his generation feels like they've been "punked" out of their bright future--he's a Boomer, and the visions of the future that were imagined by his parents at the end of Jazz and the 30's and 40's didn't seem to come true--they didn't get their flying cars and personal rocket packs and robot maids...and they're not quite sure what they did get with the digital age.

Just a thought for the day...

Caerulctor said:
But steampunk itself changed the meaning of "-punk", giving it a host of new associations: anachronistic technological mixtures, alternate timelines, parallel worlds, retro-futurism of various stripes. And while "dieselpunk" picks up "-punk" in that sense, it seems probable that dieselpunk is beginning to acquire additional peripheral meanings, as it incorporates a variety of modern-retro styles of art, music, craftsmanship, etc. that have only limited connection with the sf concepts embedded in steampunk.
interesting idea. I can tell you that me, being 44 years old, feel like I was also denied the "real future" (although I am glad we didn't get the post-apocalyptic one that seemed pretty likely in the 70s and 80s). Yes, my younger self would be tickled with the internet we have now and the information available but she really wanted space stations, a solar system based civilization, rocket packs etc. It seems that the worst of humanity has prevailed and thus has denied that from happening for at least a long time.

Athenaprime said:
Re: the Punk in Dieselpunk--I think it might be said, too, that Dieselpunk has punk roots not from being hooligan-ish, or featuring hooligans as characters but rather, as my Dad pointed out to me in a conversation a few months ago--his generation feels like they've been "punked" out of their bright future--he's a Boomer, and the visions of the future that were imagined by his parents at the end of Jazz and the 30's and 40's didn't seem to come true--they didn't get their flying cars and personal rocket packs and robot maids...and they're not quite sure what they did get with the digital age
I like the punk term fine, Punk implies an asthetic or cultural difference between historical reinactors in Dickens costumes and steampunks. or people just dressed in vintage clothes and deiselpunks. the punk opens up to the goggles the technology the deisel powered rocket packs..
I agree completely Dizzy. Same here.

Dizzy said:
I like the punk term fine, Punk implies an asthetic or cultural difference between historical reinactors in Dickens costumes and steampunks. or people just dressed in vintage clothes and deiselpunks. the punk opens up to the goggles the technology the deisel powered rocket packs..

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